I Have Fallen in Love by Akka Mahadevi

Akka Mahadevi’s fame arises almost solely from her incredible devotion to her faith in Hinduism and to Shiva, one of its principal deities. Her sainthood and honorific (“Akka” is not a name; it means “elder sister,” in a religious sense) came to her largely through the expression of her devotion through the written word. Her poems were early hallmarks for the Kannada language, and the content therein has served to inform her own story, through legends, mythology, and historic fact as well. I Have Fallen in Love is an ideal poem for someone trying to begin understanding the depths of Mahadevi’s faith, and the means through which she expressed that devotion for others to understand. Most of her poems expressed these ideas, but I Have Fallen in Love is an example of one that does so in honest and powerful terms, where Mahadevi’s word choice and use of metaphor is ideal for bringing the reader into her own conscious faith and love.

Since the poem was initially written in the Kannada language, it is, of course, possible for some of that word choice to be the result of translation errors, which should be kept in mind whenever reading the work.

 

I Have Fallen in Love Analysis

First Stanza

I have fallen in love, O mother with the

Beautiful One, who knows no death,

knows no decay and has no form;

I Have Fallen in Love begins with the phrase that constitutes its title, and serves as the central idea for the piece — that the speaker, presumably Mahadevi herself, given its historic context, has fallen in love. Her description of the recipient of her affections is immediately indicative of a deity, or spiritual being — she describes neither their gender or their appearance, but goes to describe them as being transcendent beyond death and decay, and furthermore, that they have no physical form with which to die. She calls her love the “Beautiful One,” capitalized for spiritual significance, and is addressing her mother as she speaks, either trying to justify her actions by describing the being, or to explain where this love comes from. The idea of falling in love with a non-physical entity is an unusual one, and is the likely inspiration for the work — the idea that it should be explained.

 

Second and Third Stanza

I have fallen in love, O mother with the

Beautiful One, who has no middle, has

no end, has no parts and has no features;

I have fallen in love, O mother with the

Beautiful One, who knows no birth and

knows no fear.

In the second and third verses, there is a clear repetition of most of the passages. The first lines are all identical, as is the “Beautiful one, who,” which speaks to the importance of the figure in the speaker’s life. I Have Fallen in Love is exactly what its title implies, and is clearly a point of great pride and passion for the speaker, who goes on to detail the spiritual nature of her love. References to the being not knowing birth, as well as to having no parts or features, further expounds on its spiritual identity. Meanwhile, the idea of having no middle and no end (but, it seems, a beginning) implies immortality and permanence for the being. That it also has no fear suggests that it is an entity of significant power as well, or one that commands a great deal of respect.

Throughout the first three verses, the repetition is used to give the work a formal quality, as the speaker addresses her mother in each thing she says. It also highlights certain elements of Mahadevi’s word choice. In particular is the placement of the phrase “Beautiful One,” which is always places in such a way as to be the beginning of its line each time it appears. The line break forces the reader to read “Beautiful One” as its own significant idea, set apart from the rest of the work by its structure. Mahadevi’s affection and love towards her Beautiful One is clearly indicated throughout the entire poem, thanks to this repetitive verse structure.

 

Fourth Stanza

I have fallen in love, O mother with the

Beautiful One, who is without any family,

without any country and without any peer;

Chenna Mallikarjuna, the Beautiful, is my husband.

Fling into the fire the husbands who are subject

to death and decay. 

The final verse breaks the pattern of repetition Mahadevi has established, but only so far as to add a final three lines to its ending; the titular phrase, along with the formal description of the Beautiful One is still in place. This time, the subject of her love is described as being without friends, family, or home, which implies a very solitary life. In the conclusion of the poem, however, Mahadevi names her husband Chenna Mallikarjuna, a phrase which is difficult to translate, but is commonly accepted to mean “lord as white as jasmine.” Poets of the Bhakti movement, Mahadevi included, often had unique “signatures,” which were used in place of the name of the deity they addressed in their works. For Mahadevi, Chennamallikarjuna was the phrase used to indicate Shiva, a Hindu deity of enormous power and repute.

Akka Mahadevi writes in I Have Fallen in Love that Shiva is her husband, and uses the work to describe the aspects of the being she has fallen in love with. The poem concludes with a remark that husbands that are mortal and can decay and die are beneath her cares — use of the word “fling” indicates a nonchalance towards the fate of mortal men, as she essentially proclaims that they can burn alive for all the love she has towards them. Undoubtedly this is meant in a metaphorical sense (it can certainly be hoped that Mahadevi did not want men to burn if she did not love them), and it works well as an idea to complete Mahadevi’s devotional poem. As an expression of the faith that inspired her epithet, I Have Fallen in Love is an excellent poem and a strong insight into the story of this legendary saint of the Bhakti movement.

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